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Creating a warm welcome for global families

by Dr Neil Hopkin, Principal, BISS Puxi of  The British International School Shanghai, Puxi

Building notions of home for young citizens of the world

Creating a warm welcome for global families

Last week I was in London at Nord Anglia Education’s global recruitment fair, where approximately 10,000 teachers were applying for jobs in one of the 43 schools in our global organisation. It was a hive of activity and the sea of fresh eager faces all hoping to secure their first international post was invigorating. 

Of course, by definition, our families at school have already made that transition, from being based in their natural homeland to moving abroad and living in a new country. For many of you this may not be the first time that you have lived abroad, perhaps you have had multiple postings in other countries. 

This is an interesting dynamic for our children. I think back to my own childhood, where I had not visited a foreign country until I was 11, or to my mother, who had not visited a foreign country until she was in her mid-thirties and now, approaching 80, still lives just 500m from where she was born. My son, on the other hand, visited 7 different countries last year, 6 the year before and 4 the year before that, and he is just 9 years old. One of his best friends in the UK is yet to fly on an aeroplane. 

Students that are educated internationally have a very different experience and very different perspective on the world, from either their parents’ generation, or from most of their compatriots at ‘home’. It gives them a unique view of the world and places them at a distinct advantage in understanding the best ways to communicate and connect with people from different backgrounds. 

However, it can also have unexpected consequences. At the recruitment fair last week I was talking with a fellow Principal whose parents were diplomats and consequently had moved every few years to various embassies around the world. I asked him where he regarded as home and he wistfully replied ‘nowhere’. 

This dual sense of being true global citizens and yet feeling somewhat homeless is an important issue that we must consider in the pastoral care of our children, whether as teachers or parents. Events where we celebrate different ‘home’ countries are therefore very important, as well as celebrating the festivals of our host country. Of course, we are all used to the fact that there are always upsides and downsides to any of life’s twists and turns, but in this case, we must all take special care to preserve a sense of joy, in all that being a global citizen implies, including a sense of family and home. 

This is why the ‘warm welcome’ of the BISS family is so important to our school, as for many children, this school may be their only source of familiarity, a sense of being ‘home’, that they feel for some time. So, let’s all consider what we can do for those around us to welcome them to our ‘home’ and give them that sense of family, wherever they find themselves.